The realities of living in a world without third-party cookies

Mar 31, 2023 by
The realities of living in a world without third-party cookies

Third-party cookies have been a staple of the internet for decades now, providing website owners with valuable information about their users’ browsing habits. However, with the rise of privacy concerns and increasing regulatory scrutiny, many companies are moving away from third-party cookies in favour of more transparent tracking methods.

While this may seem like a positive step for privacy and for users fed up with having their information shared without their express consent, the reality of living in a world without third-party cookies is more complex than it might initially appear.

Show me the cookie

When third-party cookie support is officially shut off on all major browsers at the end of 2024, one of the most significant initial impacts will be felt in the world of online advertising.

Without the ability to track users across multiple sites, advertisers will no longer be able to rely on the same level of targeting and personalization that they are used to. At least not without doing a lot more work bringing in their own data.

This means they will need to find new ways of reaching their desired audiences, such as contextual advertising, which targets users based on the content they are currently viewing rather than their browsing history. This shift could lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of online advertising and a reduction in revenue for publishers.

Of course, it’s all speculative. Indeed, one study found that turning off third-party data decreased ad revenue by more than half, while another found it only made a 4% difference. The proof, at least as far as advertising is concerned, will very much be in the pudding.

Analyse this

Website analytics is also going to be profoundly impacted by the end of the third-party cookie. Many site owners rely on third-party cookies to track user behaviour on their site, such as which pages are visited most frequently and how long users stay on each page.

This information is critical for website optimisation and improving the overall user experience. Without third-party cookies, website owners will need to find new ways to gather this data, such as server-side tracking, which simplifies the data collection process and puts all cookies into a first-party context. Of course, reliance on first-party cookies is also going to increase.

One potential benefit of the end of third-party cookies is an improvement in user privacy. With fewer companies tracking their every move online, users may feel more comfortable browsing the web without feeling like they are being constantly monitored.

However, the absence of third-party cookies doesn’t necessarily mean that all of a user’s personal data is completely safe. Companies may still collect and use personal data through other means, such as first-party cookies or even biometrics such as device fingerprinting.

A world without cookies

Overall, the reality of living in a world without third-party cookies is a complex and multifaceted one with no clear answers. While it may lead to some improvements in user privacy, it also presents significant challenges for marketers, particularly when it comes to advertising and website analytics.

As we move forward, it will be interesting to see how companies adapt to these changes and what new methods of tracking and targeting they’ll develop to plug the hole left by the demise of the third-party cookie.